When as adults, we see our child in a fist fight with another child over something, we intervene and help them understand that probably fist-fighting was the not the most appropriate solution to whatever the situation was. At the same time, when we look at our mutual problems, which are more complex, we tend to forget to practice what we preach. From time to time we, intelligent and mature adults, fail to handle problems, disagreements and conflicts in the most appropriate way. And like the two fighting kids, we too get focused on winning without thinking of the consequences of that victory. Sometimes, that victory or efforts towards it, ruin a relationship. At a macro level, it escalates into wars. Can we as honestly say that nothing could have prevented the bloodshed of our fellow human beings? There are always peace options but desire for quick conquest overpowers the efforts for a meaningful collective victory. Let us build a case for eliminating or substantially reducing wars from our society by looking at: cost benefit analysis, finding common grounds and shared vision.
Wars affect the economy both positively and negatively. On one side, many make big profits on weaponry production, contracting and construction. Some local people are recruited for these activities and are able to make money. But these profits do not reach the majority of the population. On the other side, a nation looses money in investing on the training, equipments, maintenance of the troops and other requirements. In the war zones, the devastation and loss of infrastructure incurs major damage to the economy for many years to come. With (a) thousands of people losing their livelihoods, (b) hundreds of acres of land polluted with mines, and (c) current and future workers impaired physically and mentally, there is a much bigger cost to pay than any profit wars may bring to the global economy.
Those who advocate that wars will lead to some kind of well being to specific countries and/groups must analyze the potential benefits of any war against the cost being paid. Cost of the current wars around the world is (a) immeasurable resources, (b) hundreds of thousands of lives (c) physical, psychological and social wounds, (d) destruction and devastation in affected areas, (e) future adverse effects of wars such as unexploded ordnances and finally (f) increased hatred, which may lead to several other conflicts. What benefits are worth of this price? Can an ideology be truthfully promoted at this cost?
Finding Common Grounds
Since the cultural/ethnic filters amongst nations/groups are very different from each other, there will be conflicts but we need to change the ways of conflict resolution. When we begin to look beyond our cultural filters and linguistic interferences, deep inside all societies advocate for forgiveness, peace and love. The holy Quran says, “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate”. Jesus was not advocating for revenge and hatred when he said, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. The Dalai Lama posits love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. Rabbi Menachem Mendle said, “Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ‘other’ exists”. Mahatma Gandhi objected to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
We cannot to start a process of coming together until we forgive, accept and empathize with each other. It would be easier to find common grounds if we look at common needs. In order to find common grounds we need to (a) refine and use our diplomatic skills more than ever, (b) negotiate while respecting each other’s leadership (c) utilize a collaborative processes for creative problem solving, (d) be flexible and (e) where agreeing is not possible, agree to disagree deferentially.
Assiduous dialoguing is essential to reach a mutually acceptable pact for parties involved. Focus of such processes must be the ‘issues’ and not 'people'. In addition, agreements are sustainable only if they are understood and acceptable at the grassroots. A bottom-up approach is recommended to set the framework for negotiations. Both communities and governments have significant roles in peace-building and sustaining peace.
Let’s take a moment to visualize that all the resources, power and wisdom that is being spent on wars around the world is diverted to feeding the hungry, providing shelters to the homeless, giving appropriate health care to the sick and bringing smiles to faces covered with dirt and wet with tears. I recognize that no matter how beautiful this vision is, it not practical and probably cannot be realized in a short span of time.
However, as responsible citizens of the world we must try to move towards this vision. Especially, now, when many players in the world are equipped with Nuclear weapons. We cannot continue to risk our future. Recently, a young graphic designer in a conversation expressed his fear about a potential nuclear war. He said, “If the world leaders do not learn to negotiate and there is a nuclear war, the world would go back to stone age”. His fear is not based on any research but is important because it represents the fear of thousands of youth around the world.
In today’s age of globalization, where there is much greater interdependence between States, it is the best time ever to develop a shared vision. Whether rich or poor states, developed, developing or under-developed countries, all hold overlapping dreams that can constitute a shared vision, such as (a) Economic prosperity and international trade opportunities, (b) Freedom to serve God according to local traditions, (c) Opportunities for optimum growth and development for children, and (d) Well being, respect and independence. It might be difficult and painstaking but it can be done.
World leaders, before you decide for another war, I request you to think about what do you want to leave for your great grandchildren, ruins because of nuclear weapons or opportunities that come through peace and prosperity.